Sunday, October 30, 2011

My 101 Favorite Horror Films

I came up with the idea to do this just recently. I was originally going to do another film review but I decided instead to share with you my favorite horror films. Now, before we get started, you need to take some things into consideration. First, this is by no means a permanent list. Except for my favorite, my opinion on a lot of these may change since I'm always seeing new movies and I tend to grow out of others. Second, this is just my opinion. These aren't the horror movies I consider the absolute best per se but they're the ones I enjoy watching the most. You also have to take into account my taste in movies. Keep that in mind if you either see a movie on this list that you can't believe I would consider a favorite or I didn't put one on there that is your favorite. Third, I have not seen every horror movie ever (which is impossible) so some I haven't seen yet may end up on my list once I do see them. Fourth, I will eventually review all the movies here that I haven't mentioned before in detail some day so don't worry about me not mentioning them again. Finally, don't judge too harshly, please. With that said, here we go.

101. Cannibal Holocaust (1980). When it comes to those fake snuff movies that I said I'd never review, this is about the closest one that I ever will. I'm not a fan of cannibal movies by any means and I only saw this one because it's the most famous one. While I don't watch it much (because it's quite hard to watch), I can't deny that it's a powerful piece of filmmaking regardless. I do think director Ruggero Deodatto went too far with the animal killings but otherwise, as horrific as this film is, it does have some interesting things to say about human nature, civilization, and who the real savages in the world are and for that, I give it points.

100. The Haunting (1963). This was the movie I was originally going to review for this post. I know a lot of people consider this film a classic but I put it pretty low on the list because, frankly, the lead character Eleanor (Julie Harris) annoys me to death. I know she's supposed to be troubled but if it bugs me, it bugs me. I'm sorry. However, I do put this on here because of Richard Johnson, the beautiful black and white photography, the atmosphere, and the subtle creepy moments. It may not be my favorite haunted house movie ever but I do respect it.

99. The Mangler (1995). Here's where I lose all credibility with a lot of people. Yes, the movie about a killer laundry machine is on my list. I realize that it's a retarded idea but director Tobe Hooper realized that as well and decided not to take himself too seriously. He also decided to go all out with the concept and what you get is a silly but fun movie. Ted Levine and Robert Englund are both great, the movie moves at a good pace, there's some nice gore, and at the end, the laundry machine actually comes to life and starts chasing the main characters. How can you not love that? If you think it's stupid, that's cool but I do get a kick out of this movie.

98. Tales of Terror (1962). This is one of the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that Roger Corman directed in the 60's. This is an anthology with three stories adapted from Poe stories. All three star Vincent Price and he's able to show his acting range, going from a drunken, bitter man to a haughty wine expert to a kind man whose soul is tortured after death. The third story is my favorite because it's so creepy. Price's echoing voice and moans when his soul is trapped in limbo is very eerie and Basil Rathbone plays an utterly despicable villain in the hypnotist who refuses to let Price die. The second story is also great because of Peter Lorre's performance as a drunken asshole who's abusive to his wife and ultimately murders both her and her lover when he discovers the affair. I haven't seen many of Corman's Poe adaptations but for right now, this is my favorite.

97. Zombie (Zombi 2) (1979). This is the movie that first established director Lucio Fulci as a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. This is a really great zombie movie and unlike a good deal of Fulci's later work, actually has a coherent narrative. It is a slow burn with a long buildup but the payoff is worth it. The zombies look great, the deaths are very memorable and nasty, and the gore effects are top notch. The actors, while not the best, do passable jobs. And you have a scene where a zombie battles a shark! A doped up shark, mind you, but a shark nonetheless. That's great. The movie also has a creepy atmosphere to it and a great score. It may not be the best zombie film ever but it holds its own in my opinion.

96. Abominable (2006). I've already reviewed this film so I won't dwell on it for too long. To me, this is the best horror film to feature Bigfoot as the villain. People rag on the look of the Bigfoot but I think it's fine overall. Matt McCoy is a likable, charismatic lead whom you root for and want to see survive, there's a lot of good practical creature and gore effects, and Jeffrey Combs and Lance Henriksen, even though they're in it very briefly, play two characters that I like. The teenage girls are forgettable but I liked the pace of the movie and I thought it was an interesting spin on the Rear Window type of plot.

95. The Guardian (1990). As I said in my review of The Exorcist, I think this horror effort from William Friedkin should get a little more attention. It's a dark, contemporary take on a fairy tale and I think it does work. Jenny Seagrove is sexy and creepy, I thought Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell were believable as the new parents, the movie has a nice pace, is very creepy at times, and the score is a nice touch. While I do think that the ending is silly and feels like The Evil Dead, I think this is a nicely made, overlooked horror flick overall. Maybe not one of Friedkin's best but I enjoy it.

94. The Devil's Rejects (2005). I've been down on Rob Zombie in recent years because I despise his Halloween films and his attitude towards the original series but I will give him this movie. This is the type of film he should stick with in his career: a grungy, gritty, exploitation style movie. That's where his strength lies. The killers, as evil and horrible as they are, are entertaining, especially Bill Moseley as Otis and Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding. William Forsythe is awesome as the sheriff you don't want to mess with and I also liked Ken Foree's role as the friend to the killers. While it is a sick and twisted film, I felt that it worked because, again, it's an exploitation movie. While I do get annoyed with movies where every other word is "fuck", I thought it worked for this type of movie. Finally, the soundtrack for this movie in terms of the actual songs kicks ass. While I haven't seen House of 1,000 Corpses at this point, I can say that this is a Rob Zombie movie that I do enjoy.

93. House of Wax (1953). This is the film that made Vincent Price a horror star and it's easy to see why. He's excellent and sympathetic as a dedicated artist whose creations are destroyed in a fire deliberately set by a false friend of his and is both disfigured and rendered insane in the process. While what he's doing to regain his lost creations is horrific (killing people and making wax figures out of the bodies), you do understand him and feel his pain. Price is what makes this film work. The art direction is a plus as well, especially the design of his workshop with the vats of boiling wax and the like. I do like some of the other characters but Price is the real reason you would watch this movie.

92. The Howling (1981). It took many watches for me to get into this movie but now, I can honestly say that I do enjoy it. It is a very slow build and while that's what put me off initially, I think it does help the movie in retrospect. Dee Wallace Stone is good in the lead role and the other actors like her late husband Christopher Stone, Patrick Macnee, Kevin McCarthy, Belinda Balaski, John Carradine, Dennis Dugan, Slim Pickens, Elisabeth Brooks, and Bob Picardo all do good jobs. The werewolf effects by Rob Bottin are very impressive and Picardo's transformation scene is a highlight. The score by Pino Donaggio was one at first wasn't keen on but now I think it does suit the film. Not my favorite werewolf movie but one of them.

91. The Burning (1981). This is probably my favorite slasher movie that didn't become a franchise. While it is like Friday the 13th all over again, I think it's different enough to warrant attention. You've got Tom Savini on his A-game, doing some really good makeup effects and some brutal kills (the opening murder of the hooker and the massacre on the raft are my favorites); the killer's weapon of choice, hedge-trimmers, is memorable; the look of the killer, which you don't see until the end, may look a bit silly but I do like it; and I like some of the characters. I thought Jason Alexander was really cool and funny and I liked the leads as well. Above average slasher flick in my opinion.

90. Anaconda (1997). I can't help it. I love creature features and monster movies and this is a favorite because it's one I grew up with. The snake looks fake when it's CGI, yes, but the animatronics are very well done. I didn't think Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube did that bad but to me, Jon Voight is the real star. He's so over the top in his insanity and his accent is so ridiculous that I can't help but love him. The moment where the anaconda prepares to swallow him is really creepy, especially during the shot inside its mouth. This is another movie that has a very good pace, is enjoyable from beginning to end, and I really like the music score, especially the soothing music that plays at the beginning of the ending credits. I will always like this movie so sue me.

89. The Relic (1997). This is a great monster movie from the 90's. You have a likable, tough lead in Tom Sizemore as Vincent D'Agosta, Linda Hunt and James Whitmore are both good supporting characters, the creature is well designed and executed, director Peter Hyams knows how to use the darkness to his advantage in order to hide the monster and build suspense, the action scenes are very enjoyable, and I absolutely love the music score. Granted, Penelope Ann Miller is kind of a weak character and I really didn't care about the subplot with her trying to get the grant she needs but other than that, this is a movie that I enjoy very much.

88. Freddy vs. Jason (2003). This is another film that I put on here just because it's a lot of fun. It took years to make this movie and I feel that the result was worth the wait. The teenagers are very forgettable and some are downright annoying but who cares? You've got the long awaited fight between Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and it does not disappoint. Robert Englund is on his A-game as Freddy, the fights are wonderfully exciting and bloody as hell, the kills are over the top and fun, and it's an enjoyable 98 minutes. It is a shame that Kane Hodder wasn't allowed to play Jason here, they added the really stupid aspect of Jason being afraid of water, and, like I said, the teenagers are bad but this movie is so fun that I'm willing to forgive it.

87. The Silence of the Lambs (1991). You're probably disappointed that this movie is so low on the list but hey, it's on there, so whatever. This is a really well made film all around. Jonathan Demme's direction is spot on, all the actors are awesome, the music is well done, it has a dark, twisted atmosphere to it, and the ending is very memorable. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are both great as Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter but the most memorable character to me is Ted Levine as the real villain of the film, Buffalo Bill. I think he deserved an Oscar as much as Hopkins did. The finale with him stalking Clarice in the dark basement is absolute classic. While I don't like it as much as most, I do agree that this is a very good movie.

86. Christine (1983). When it comes to John Carpenter's movies, I think this one is a tad overlooked. I find it to be a solid adaptation of the Stephen King book and definitely one of the better King adaptations period. Keith Gordon is awesome as Arnie Cunningham. He's sympathetic and likable but when he turns, you can just see that he's lost his mind. I liked all the other actors, especially Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton, Carpenter creates another memorable music score, the characters are well developed, and the effects with the car are top notch, especially when she repairs herself. It's a shame that Carpenter himself doesn't seem to care much for this film because it is a high point of his career in my opinion.

85. Basket Case (1982). This was a movie I'd wanted to see for a while since my friends at Deadpit.com speak very highly of it and it was worth it. This is such an over the top, silly, gory, and sleazy as crap monster movie that I fell in love with it immediately. Belial is a memorable character. The way he's brought to life may not be exactly convincing but it works for the type of movie Frank Hennenlotter was making. The actors are all great and do their job well, the grimy look of the film adds to the enjoyable sleaze factor; and the deaths are so gross and crazy that you can't help but love it. It's definitely Hennenlotter's best film and one of my favorite comedic horror films.

84. City of the Living Dead (The Gates of Hell) (1980). Of the three Lucio Fulci movies I've seen so far (the other two being Zombie and The House By the Cemetery), this is the one that had the most impact on me. This is where Fulci took the zombie genre and made it his own. Many say that this movie's plot isn't very coherent but I was able to follow it up to the ending (which I don't understand but that's beside the point). This movie is creepy as hell, it has a lot of memorable scenes (Catriona MacColl being buried alive and the girl puking her guts up were the ones that got me), and it's like having a nightmare while you're awake. You might not understand a good deal of it but you don't have to in order to enjoy it.

83. Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992). The last worthwhile Hellraiser film to me. I know many people dislike this movie because after the first two, this feels more or less like a typical slasher movie. However, I really enjoy this film. This is the movie where Pinhead is the star and director Anthony Hickox makes good use of him. Doug Bradley gets to play Pinhead unleashed, since in this film he's not bound by his good human half or Hell's rules and does whatever he pleases. Seeing him utterly slaughter a nightclub full of people is just awesome. He's also much more forceful in his interactions with the other characters this time around. Bradley also plays Elliot Spencer, Pinhead's former human identity and it's a shame that don't do much with it except for a few scenes because it's a great dynamic. There's also some great makeup effects, interesting new Cenobites, and the second half of the film is a lot of fun. The other actors are passable but Bradley is what makes this one worth it.

82. Blacula (1972). The vampire myth gets the blaxploitation treatment in this little known gem from the early 70's. William Marshall is great as the title character: suave, seductive, and cool but when his monstrous side rears itself, watch out. I like the other actors, especially Thalmus Rasulala as the doctor trying to solve the mystery of bizarre killings in L.A. This movie has a fun, campy feel to it, a funky soundtrack, and is so blatantly 70's that it's awesome. There are even some bizarre and freaky scenes, like the slow motion shot of this vampire woman running down a hallway. Really fun movie overall.

81. Duel (1971). Steven Spielberg's first film and even though it's a TV movie, it delivers in the tension section. Dennis Weaver is the only main character and he effortlessly holds the movie together as the poor man who's terrorized by an insane truck driver after he cuts him off. The truck driver is more of a force than a character because we never see his face but he just keeps baring down on his prey like a determined predator. Spielberg also makes great use of his desert setting, letting nothing go to waste. An often overlooked gem in Spielberg's filmography for sure.

80. Pumpkinhead (1988). It's a shame Stan Winston only directed one other film other than this because this is a great monster movie. Lance Henriksen is fantastic as the lead character who resurrects an evil demon for revenge for the death of his young son but discovers that he's gotten himself into more than he bargained for. The teenagers are okay but Henriksen is the best character here, along with Florence Schauffler as the witch Haggis. The movie has a strange fairy tale look to it, especially in the scene with Haggis' cabin in the swamp. The interior of that set is lit so strangely that it does look like something from a Grim's fairy tale. Pumpkinhead himself is a well designed creature and is lit very well (something that the sequels failed in). A great 80's monster movie from a man who created a lot of memorable monsters himself.

79. Hollow Man (2000). This is another movie that I know a lot of people hate but I thoroughly enjoy. It's basically a slasher movie only with an invisible killer. Granted, Kevin Bacon's Sebastian Caine isn't very likable from the start but honestly, I like Bacon so much that it doesn't bug me. I also enjoyed Elisabeth Shue and Josh Brolin's performances as well. The effects are quite well done and I think this is an instance where CGI is used very well. Jerry Goldsmith also conducts an enjoyable score that is both wondrous and eerie while also being action-packed when it needs to be. The last twenty minutes is really enjoyable as well. If you don't like it, that's cool but I say give it another shot because it's much better than you probably think.

78. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). The only werewolf movie that Hammer ever made and it's a shame because it's very good. Oliver Reed has a very early role as the young man whose mother's rape by an insane beggar ends up with him becoming a werewolf and he's great as the tortured soul who tries to resist his monstrous other half. Clifford Evans also has a great role as Reed's adopted father who wants desperately to help him but ultimately has to end his suffering in the only real way (killing him). The werewolf's look may not be the most memorable ever created but it does the job. This movie also have a very epic scope, spanning decades from the main character's conception to his birth, childhood, and adulthood. I also really like the music as well. One of my favorite Hammer horror films.

77 & 76. Tremors (1990) and Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996). These are two movies from my childhood and I can't decide which one I like more. These are two awesome monster flicks from the 90's. The first one is a fun monster movie with a great cast (Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Michael Gross), lots of nice humor and chemistry between the actors, well designed monsters, and a sense of excitement and fun about it like the 50's monster movies. The sequel has to be one of the best direct-to-video movies ever. I think it has all the elements of the first one: great characters (Fred Ward is awesome and Michael Gross comes into his own), more great creature work, and a wonderful pace. These may not be other people's lists but I absolutely love these flicks.

75. Pet Sematary (1989). This has to be the darkest Stephen King story ever and the movie is no different. I'll never forget the first time I watched this. It really disturbed me because of the subject matter, the deaths, and the extremely downbeat ending. Fred Gwynne is the best thing about this movie. He rocks. You've also got a creepy as hell cat (I swear, that cat gave me nightmares), a darkly funny undead character, a disgusting sick woman, and, which is very ballsy, an undead little kid. (His death scene really got me.) I don't watch it much because it really does upset me but I had to put it on my list.

74. The Blob (1988). Filmmakers nowadays need to take note: THIS is how you remake a beloved film. You take what made the original awesome and crank it up to ten. The blob in this movie is the original on steroids: it's fast, angry, voracious, and deadly. The makeup effects are kick ass, Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith are two great leads, and the music is great. It's a shame that this film isn't as well regarded as the original and flopped when it was released but those of us who appreciate it know that it's awesome.

73. Psycho II (1983). Who would have thought that a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's classic made twenty-three years later would be good? Not only is it good but it's awesome. It's the best type of sequel you could have to a classic film. Anthony Perkins reprises his legendary role and he's great as ever, this time playing Norman Bates as a victim rather than a villain. There's a lot of great atmosphere, Jerry Goldsmith creates another great score, and Richard Franklin's direction is so good that you'd swear that Hitchcock had risen from the grave to direct it. A definite must-see.

72. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). I'm not a fan of a lot of Tobe Hooper's stuff and while I know a lot of people hate this movie, I think it's awesome due to its black humor, over the top gore, and just plain insanity. It is like a parody of the original more than a sequel but that's why it's so fun. Dennis Hopper is off the wall in that film and Caroline Williams is a great lead woman. Leatherface may not feel like the same character as he was originally but he's not the best of the villains. I get more of a kick out of Jim Siedow and Bill Moseley as Chop-Top. They're both hilarious. It may not be the typical kind of sequel but honestly, that's why I enjoy it.

71. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). I had to put this one on here. This is one of my favorite classic monster movies ever. I've loved it ever since I first saw it when I was twelve. The creature himself is such an iconic monster, the movie is beautiful in its black and white photography, the music is classic, and I really like the actors like Richard Carlson, Julia Adams, and Richard Denning. I've already reviewed this movie so I don't know how much more I can gush about it. If you love 50's monster flicks and haven't seen this, you owe it to yourself because it's one of the best of the bunch.

70. The People Under the Stairs (1991). This is one of Wes Craven's movies that you never hear anyone talk about it and that's a shame because it's great. It's more of a thriller than an out and out horror film but it really works. I heard someone say that it's like a dark version of Home Alone and I don't think that's too far off. There's a lot of great sadistic traps strewn throughout the house that the film takes place in. The premise of this movie is actually quite disturbing, the evil brother and sister are two truly loathsome villains, and the kids are well worth caring for. Check it out if you've never seen it.

69. Silver Bullet (1985). This is a highly underrated werewolf movie. It's almost like if you took a kid's movie like The Goonies or something and combined it with a serious werewolf tale. Corey Haim is great as the crippled kid who discovers that a werewolf is prowling and killing people in and around the town and Gary Busey, as small as his role is, is a hoot as Haim's disbelieving, beer-drinking uncle. The werewolf itself is a very well designed monster and the attack scenes are wonderfully gory. In fact, the werewolf's human identity is an even more intimidating character. This is another overlooked Stephen King adaptation and a great werewolf movie that everyone should know about. It's great.

68. Candyman (1992). Before Scream reinvigorated the horror genre, this was one of the best of the 90's. It's a great spooky story about urban legends with unforgettable images, creepy scenes, a haunting operatic score, and a memorable title character in the form of Tony Todd, who's both intimidating and tragic. Virginia Madsen is also great as the disbelieving graduate student who ends up as the target of Candyman's curse when she inadvertently summons him. Very well made and creepy movie.

67. Jacob's Ladder (1990). This is one of the most haunting movies I have ever seen in my life. Tim Robbins is at the top of his game as the tragic title character whose life becomes a never-ending nightmare after his stint in Vietnam (or so you think). This is like an Argento film in that it's chock full of bizarre images and sequences that make you wonder what the hell you're watching, a haunting music score, and an ending that's both tragic and poignant at the same time. This is another overlooked movie that I think everyone should see because it's one you'll never forget.

66. Scream (1996). For all of you out there who hate this movie, too bad because I really enjoy it. The sequels may have made the story very convoluted but this original is a work of genius in my opinion. I've never understood the hatred for this movie simply because it points the finger at all the horror cliches. What's so wrong with that? That aspect aside, this is a very well made movie. The opening with Drew Barrymore is unforgettable in how truly tense it is, Neve Campbell holds her own as the lead, the kills are nicely graphic and vicious, and the killer is an iconic character. It may have flooded the market with a ton of imitators but there's no denying that this film revived the horror genre and is very good in its own right. I say give it another chance.

65. The Others (2001). Smart ghost story that is very creepy and manages to hold your attention. Nicole Kidman is perfect as the lead woman whose conservative religious views are threatened by the strange occurrences that begin happening in her home. The kid actors in this movie is also very good. In fact, everyone is. And the twist is something I guarantee you won't see coming. I don't want to say much else because I'm afraid I'll spoil a movie that needs to be seen in order to be fully appreciated.

64. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). This is the film that started Hammer Films' long Gothic horror run and it remains one of the best. Peter Cushing is marvelous as the unscrupulous Victor Frankenstein who is determined to carry out his experiment, no matter who he has to hurt or kill for that matter in order to do so. He would repeat the role in many sequels and while they varied in quality, he was always a high mark. Robert Urquhart is also great as Frankenstein's former tutor who realizes how dangerous his pupil's experiments are and tries to make him realize it as well. Christopher Lee doesn't have much to do as the monster but that's not the point because here, the doctor is the focus, not the monster. While it's pretty tame by today's standards, this movie was considered very shocking in its day for its quite graphic violence and scenes of crude science. The art direction is also very good. I can't recommend this film enough.

63. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942). This was the first Universal horror film I ever saw (and one of the first movies I ever saw period) so I had to put it on here. Ostensibly a sequel to The Wolf Man that also happens to have the Frankenstein monster in it as well, this movie may not be the best of the lot but it's very enjoyable. Lon Chaney Jr. perfects his immortal role as Larry Talbot here and has one of the best transformations into the Wolf Man in this film. The opening is very atmospheric and memorable and the whole film is very well designed. Bela Lugosi's performance as the monster may seem laughable but when you realize the circumstances behind it, it's acceptable. Finally, the brawl between the two monsters that concludes the film is just awesome. It may not be a perfect film but it's a lot of fun nonetheless.

62. From Beyond (1986). Stuart Gordon follows up his classic Re-Animator with another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation and the result is one wild film. Unlike its predecessor, this film has little humor and is quite disturbing in its own right. Jeffrey Combs is great as always as the frightened witness to an experiment gone awry who becomes an unwitting pawn in the villain's plot. Ted Sorel is also good as the mad scientist who becomes a monster due to the experiment and Ken Foree is always a pleasure to have around. There's plenty of insane makeup effects, nice nods to classic horror from the 30's, and an eerie music score. An unforgettable viewing experience for sure.

61. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932). Of all the adaptations of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is my favorite and the reason for that is Frederic March. He's positively captivating in the dual role. His Jekyll is a kind, well-meaning but patient and ambitious man and his Hyde is a hideous brute with no morals whatsoever and a devious, sexual appetite. Hyde is the best part of this movie just because of how off the wall and downright cruel he is. The sexual content of this movie is quite ballsy for a movie from the 30's and there's a lot of interesting camerawork for the time too. This is one movie you don't want to miss if you haven't seen it before.

60. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). The Exorcist meets a courtroom drama may seem like a dumb idea but this movie works very well. Laura Linney was really good as the defense attorney and Jennifer Carpenter was also really good as the title character and you really feel for her when she starts to become possessed. My favorite character though is Tom Wilkinson as the priest who's being charged for negligent homicide because of his sincerity. The exorcism scenes, while not as graphic as The Exorcist, are still quite disturbing, mainly due to Carpenter's amazing performance. Definitely a must-see.

59. Shivers (They Came From Within) (1975). David Cronenberg's first film is one of his best in my opinion. This eerie, graphic tale of sexual parasites invading an apartment building is quite well made for a movie that was shot in fifteen days by a first time director working on a very small budget. The parasites themselves do look a bit laughable in that they do look like turds but there's nothing funny about the havoc they cause. The actors, while not the best, all do their jobs fine but that's not really what it's about. It's about the pseudo-sexual revolution that the parasites are creating and plan to spread across the country. I'd advise checking it out if you're a fan of Cronenberg.

58. Cujo (1983). Another Stephen King adaptation, this time about a rabid St. Bernard who traps a mother and her young son in their broken down car. It's a simple story that is carried out very effectively. I like horror movies that have claustrophobic settings and you can't get anymore claustrophobic than this. Dee Wallace Stone is fantastic and this has to be the best horror film she was ever in. Danny Pintauro is a little irritating sometimes but I didn't grow to hate him and I understood that he was a terrified little kid. Lewis Teague's direction is crisp and sharp, the music by Charles Bernstein ranges from Disney-like to horrifying, and the techniques used to bring the dog to life are very convincing. One of my favorite King adaptations.

57. Aliens (1986). I honestly don't care much for Ridley Scott's Alien but this sequel by James Cameron is a whole other kettle of fish. This is a very exciting, high-octane sci-fi/action movie that doesn't skimp on the thrills, suspense, and scares. Sigourney Weaver gives her best performance as Ripley and she's surrounded by great actors like bad-ass Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen as a helpful android, Bill Paxton as an overly cocky but likable marine, Jenette Goldstein as a tough female marine, Paul Reiser as a slimy corporate guy, and little Carrie Henn as a loveable orphan who becomes Ripley's surrogate daughter. The alien effects by Stan Winston are top notch, especially the amazing alien queen at the end and the finale battle between her and Ripley in a power-loader is one of the best fights ever put to film. And let's not forget James Horner's iconic score. Basically what I'm saying is that this is a sequel that I think tops the original in every conceivable way.

56. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). It may not have been the last Friday the 13th by a long shot but this is one of my favorites. Jason is back and he's pissed in this movie! Ted White plays him with a lot of rage and a brutal way of killing people. The deaths are insane and wonderfully gory due to the returning Tom Savini and his awesome makeup effects. There are even some really likable characters like Crispin Glover and Lawrence Monoson as Jim and Ted and Corey Feldman as young Tommy Jarvis. Jason's death at the end is also satisfying as can be, even if it wasn't his ultimate demise. A highlight of this long-running series for sure.

55. Black Christmas (1974). One of the contenders for the first slasher movie, this might not be the late Bob Clark's best movie but it's very well made nonetheless. It was one of the first movies to make good use of the steadicam, giving many eerie point of view shots through the killer's eyes. Speaking of the killer, he's a very creepy character because you never see him, know where he came from, or why he's killing people (I sometimes wonder if he's even human). The movie also benefits from a nice cast including Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Marian Waldman, and Art Hindle. There's not much to the music score but it's effective. Finally, the ending is as creepy as you can get. If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend it if you're curious about the possible origin of the slasher film.

54. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985). This is the film in this franchise that got a lot of hate from people for many years but it doesn't deserve it at all. It's a very dark, brutal film and Robert Englund gives his most humorless performance as Freddy, not cracking a single joke or killing anybody in any funny way whatsoever. Mark Patton is a very likable lead as Jesse, the young man whom Freddy is using as a vessel to re-enter the real world and the lovely Kim Myers is also great as his girlfriend Lisa. Robert Rusler, Clu Gulager, and Marshall Bell play good supporting characters as well. The music by Christopher Young is creepy and the makeup effects are incredible (the best by far is when Freddy bursts out of Jesse's body). There's some stuff that doesn't make sense and an obvious gay subtext to the film but I advise giving it another look if you're one of the haters of it.

53. The Exorcist (1973). You're probably surprised to see a movie like this that's considered a classic to be so far down on the list but it is on here. If you've read my actual review of it, you'd know that there's a lot of stuff in this movie that I do love (the performances, the creepiness, the subtle stuff that gets overlooked) but it's not one that I watch that often. I do like it but not as much as the ones that I'm going to list after it. What else can I say about it other than it is a classic but not one of my big favorites.

52. Day of the Dead (1985). While it's my least favorite of George Romero's original living dead trilogy, I still really, really enjoy this movie. It has some of the greatest gore effects that Tom Savini has ever done (with Greg Nicotero assisting him), the zombies themselves look great, the performances are great (Lori Cardille is a great, tough lead and I also liked Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy as her friends but the most memorable is Joe Pilato as the insane Captain Rhodes) and I really like the music score to this movie as well. I also like the claustrophobic setting of the underground military bunker and the climax is some of the most gruesome zombie carnage ever. It's an awesome flick.

51. Horror of Dracula (1958). To me, this is the best Gothic horror film that Hammer ever made. Everything about this movie just works. Peter Cushing is fantastic in his first performance as Dr. Van Helsing, kindly but determined to rid the world of Dracula. Michael Gough is also good an immediate disbeliever but discovers that vampires do indeed exist. Christopher Lee is my favorite actor to ever play Dracula and this movie shows why. He's scary as hell, speaking only in the first fifteen minutes of the film and remaining silent for the rest of it and using his creepy eyes and body language to get his point across. The sets are very well designed and the music is just great. I can't stress enough how great this movie is and is required viewing for fans of Gothic horror.

50. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). There have been many versions of this story but this original is the best to me because it's the most subtle. The very idea is frightening when you think about it: discovering that everybody you know and care about are no longer who they appear to be. Kevin McCarthy is excellent as the doctor who discovers this and eventually loses everyone he cares about to the alien menace. The most graphic effects are the scenes with the seed pods bursting open to reveal the duplicates but the subtlety of it all and the atmosphere is what's great about this movie.

49. The Blair Witch Project (1999). Like Scream, this is a movie that was very popular when it was originally released but is now hated by many. I think that's unfair because this is an effective, unique film. It may not have been real as it was originally purported to be but it's still a very creepy, haunting film. The three actors are all very believable, the documentary-feel lends an air of authenticity to it, and it's a great example of less is more, with sounds in the woods being far more terrifying than anything you could actually see. It may have been very over-hyped when it was originally released but it deserves rediscovery nowadays because it's a well made film regardless.

48. Se7en (1995). I may be stretching it a little bit here because this is more of a dark drama/thriller than a horror film but it has some very horrific elements to it nonetheless. This is David Fincher's best film to me: incredibly dark and downbeat with an air of urban decay punctuated by the constant rainfall during the movie. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt give some of the best performances of their careers (the best in Pitt's case to me), the murder scenes are very bizarre and disturbing, and the ending is as un-Hollywood as you can get for a big budget studio film. If you can take a lot of disturbing stuff, this movie is a must-see.

47. Dawn of the Dead (2004). In the slew of remakes that cluttered up theaters in the 2000's, this is one of the best for sure. It's a real thrill ride, with pulse-pounding excitement, ferocious fast zombies, gruesome gore, a much darker atmosphere than the original, decent characters, and a very exciting climax. Zack Snyder gives a great visual style that has become his trademark and for a music video director who's making his first movie, this is truly excellent. You have to see this because this is one of the few remakes that manages to hold its own with the original.

46. An American Werewolf in London (1981). This is one of my favorite werewolf movies ever. It has a lot of things going for it: a likable cast (David Naughton is a charming lead, Griffin Dunne is morbidly funny as his undead friend, Jenny Agutter is sexy as Naughton's love interest, and John Woodvine starts off as cynical but becomes a genuinely concerned doctor), cutting edge makeup effects by Rick Baker (do I have to say anything about the transformation?), a dark sense of humor about it, and a nice soundtrack. I do think it takes too long to get to the werewolf action and it ends too abruptly but other than those minor quibbles, this is a favorite of mine.

45. Jaws (1975). I had to put this undisputed classic on here. It may be typical but I can't help it. I love this movie. Steven Spielberg may have had a hard time making it but it came out better than he could have ever hoped. The cast is excellent. Roy Scheider plays one of my favorite heroes of horror movies and Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw are also excellent. There's plenty of suspense, the shark, even though you don't see it much, is believable when you do see it, and let's not forget the legendary score by John Williams. The movie is also beautifully shot as well. Some may think this movie is overrated but I think it deserves all the accolades that it continues to get. I love it.

44. Dawn of the Dead (1978). The original Romero classic has to be one of his best and most fun films. This feels more like an action/adventure movie than a horror movie but it doesn't skimp on the gore. The zombies may look laughable but Tom Savini's gore makes up for it. The actors may not be the best but they do their job well, especially Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger. The movie has a feeling of fun to it, like Romero and company had a ball making it that makes it impossible not to like. The score by Goblin is also a highlight and the movie has a subtle bit of social satire towards consumerism (this was back when Romero knew how to do that stuff well). At two hours, it's one of the longest horror films ever but it makes great use of every minute. Can't recommend it enough.

43. Gremlins (1984). Another movie from my childhood. This is THE Christmas horror movie to me. Some think Silent Night, Deadly Night, I think Gremlins. It's amazing how effortlessly this movie shifts from being a kid-friendly movie to being a horror movie to being a violent comedy. This and the sequel to this are the best movies Joe Dante has ever directed to me and he shows how talented he can be when give the right kind of material. The puppet effects by Chris Walas are still impressive to this day. You'd swear that those creatures are real and breathing. Gizmo, of course, is a really cute little character and very likable. The actors are also really good like Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Dick Miller, Corey Feldman, Polly Holliday, and Keye Luke. I always love this movie and watch it every single Christmas.

42. A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988). I know a lot of people like Dream Warriors better than this but I saw this one first and therefore, I enjoy it more. True, Freddy does become a standup comedian but this was before Robert Englund started overdoing it to the point where it got annoying like in The Dream Child and Freddy's Dead. I also agree that it was really stupid to kill off the remaining Dream Warriors in the first twenty minutes without much of a fight but other than that, I think this movie is a hoot. The dream sequences are wonderfully imaginative and fun, the makeup effects are top notch (the cockroach scene always gets me), and I really like Lisa Wilcox as Alice, the new lead. I also can't help but enjoy the 80's soundtrack and I crack up when I hear Freddy rapping over the ending credits. It may not be the most serious film in the series but I just love it. It's a good time for me.

41. Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982). As I said in my reviews of the Friday the 13th series, this is the film where I think the franchise came into its own and established its identity. If you want to know what the series is about, watch this one. This is where Jason is firmly established as an iconic slasher, where he acquires his  hockey mask and starts killing people in very creative ways. The actors may not be the best ever but that doesn't matter in this type of movie. The kills are fun, the movie moves at a good pace, and there's a nice funky, disco-like main theme to it. While it's not my favorite of the series, it's the quintessential Friday the 13th movie in my opinion.

40. House on Haunted Hill (1959). William Castle's most well-known movie is one of the funnest, most gimmicky horror films of the 50's. Vincent Price is at his best as the sinister millionaire who offers a group of strangers $10,000 each if they spend the night in a supposedly haunted house. The other actors are good as well but Price is the real reason to watch this. It has a lot of campy aspects to it like skeletons on wires, a vat of acid in the basement, a severed, bloody head, and a creepy old woman who provides one of the first genuine jump scares in movie history. It's just a great, campy, gimmicky horror film from the golden age of drive-ins. One of my favorite Vincent Price movies ever.

39. The Return of the Living Dead (1985). Along with Dawn of the Dead, this is the zombie movie that has the biggest element of just pure fun. Everything in it just works perfectly. The cast ranges from veterans like James Karen, Clu Gulager, and Don Calfa who are clearly having a ball to likable younger actors such as Thom Matthews, Beverly Randolph, Miguel Nunez, and Linnea Quigley. The designs of the zombies are very memorable, especially the "tar man" zombie. The soundtrack kicks ass, from the main theme to the awesome rock songs like Partytime. Brain munching, 80's rock songs, cool zombies, Linnea Quigley dancing naked, etc. What more could you ask for? Check it out.

38. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003). Okay, before all of you who hate this movie go nuts, I just want to point out that this was my introduction to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It inspired me to check out the original, which I do think is the superior film (we'll get to that later on), but I still really enjoy this movie. Even though it did kick-start the unnecessary trend of remakes, I thought this was one of the better ones. It's intense, dark, very nasty, has some creepy music, Andrew Bryniarski is a great Leatherface, and I honestly didn't mind Jessica Biel or any of the kids. R. Lee Ermey was also memorable as the evil sheriff who turns out to be part of the family. If you hate this movie, that's cool but I will always enjoy this movie.

37. Night of the Creeps (1986). It's a shame that Fred Dekker had such bad luck when it came to directing movies because this and The Monster Squad are two very underrated, enjoyable films. This movie is a mix of many different genres, ranging from 50's sci-fi flicks, zombie movies, slasher movies, 80's creature features, and splatter flicks. The cast is very memorable and likable: Jason Lively and Steve Marshall are just awesome, Jill Whitlow is sweet and very pretty, and Tom Atkins is a great badass detective with many memorable lines: "It's Miller time" and "Thrill me." The creeps themselves are pretty simple in design and execution but they work very well. I also really enjoy the score to this movie. If you like fun B-movies, this is a must-see.

36. Creepshow (1982). This is one of George Romero's best films and you know why? Because, for once, he forgot about all the social satire and political statements he feels he has to put in every movie he makes and just had fun and the proof is in the putting. This is a great anthology in the spirit of the classic E.C. Comics which works for many different reasons. First, it has an awesome cast: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielsen, Adrienne Barbeau, Ted Danson, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins, and even Stephen King himself. They're all awesome in their respective roles and stories, especially King as Jordy Verrill. He's hilarious. There's a lot of great gore and creature work from Tom Savini, including the zombie in the opening story and the Fluffy creature in the next to last one. The best thing about this type of film is that if you don't like one story, there's four more to choose from. One of Romero's best.

35. Night of the Living Dead (1968). This was my very first review so I don't know what else I can say about it other than it's a real classic. George Romero single-handedly created an entire sub-genre of horror film with this flick. It's amazing how entertaining this movie is even to this day. The claustrophobic setting of the farmhouse, the feeling of doom that hangs over the film, and the underlying political statement all really work together. The zombies are basic but for this kind of film, they work. Other than Duane Jones, the actors are kind of hit and miss but they don't hurt the film. You've probably already seen it since it's one of the most common public domain films but if you haven't, you owe it to yourself if you're a horror fan.

34. The Hitcher (1986). This is another horror film from the 80's that's often overlooked but it shouldn't be because it's incredibly tense and creepy. Rutger Hauer is terrifying as the title character, the psychotic John Ryder who, for some unknown reason, decides to torture one intended victim who managed to escape him. C. Thomas Howell is very believable as a terrified young man whose life is turned into a never-ending nightmare as he is stalked by Ryder and even framed for his crimes. The other cast members like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jeffrey DeMunn are also really good. While this isn't explicitly gory, it's nonetheless very disturbing and tense just because of the psychological games that Ryder plays his victim. It's a shame that Robert Harmon didn't direct many other movies because this an underrated gem.

33. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986). If you've seen my overview of the series, you'd know that this is my favorite Friday the 13th. This is the one that has it all. Jason is resurrected from the grave and is now an undead killing machine, resulting in very creative and gruesome kills. You've got some nice actors like Thom Matthews, David Kagen, and Vincent Guastaferro, great direction by Tom McLoughlin, a sly sense of humor throughout, a car chase (probably never thought you'd see that in one of these movies), an exciting climax, and a great soundtrack, both score and song-wise (The Man Behind the Mask is just perfect for this type of film). This is the film in the series that I have the most fun with and will always be my favorite.

32. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988). This is a great follow-up to Clive Barker's classic Hellraiser and of all the sequels, I think this is the one that fits the most with the original. Whereas the original was basically a haunted house movie, this is a disturbing journey into hell itself. It's chock-full of disturbing images, gallons of gore, and mind-bending scenarios. Ashley Laurence is still good as Kirsty from the original and so is Clare Higgins as the now out and out evil Julia, but the biggest scene-stealer is Kenneth Cranham as the sadistic Dr. Channard who becomes a really badass Cenobite. Doug Bradley is also still on from as Pinhead and you get a little bit of backstory for him and the other Cenobites. Christopher Young also delivers another powerful score. One of the best sequels ever.

31 and 30. The Brood (1979) and Videodrome (1983). Here's another tie. These two always battle for my number two favorite Cronenberg film and I can never decide which one I like more. The Brood is the one that's often hated the most by women's groups because they accuse it of being hateful towards them but I don't agree with that. I thought it was amazing just for the very idea of a woman's rage taking physical form as well as for having some great actors like Art Hindle, Oliver Reed, and Samantha Eggar. The music by Howard Shore is also good and the climax has a scene that's so shocking and repulsive that I almost got sick the first time I saw it. Videodrome is also brilliant for its look at how technology has become an extension of the human body (as Cronenberg himself has often commented) by making that literal and I'll watch anything with James Woods because he's just cool. The effects in this film Rick Baker are unforgettable (let's not forget what happens when Max Renn shoots someone with a cancer gun). Bottom line, these are two Cronenberg flicks that are essential viewing.

29. The Terminator (1984). I know that most would consider this is a sci-fi/action film instead of a horror film but there are some very tense, suspenseful sequences in this movie that I think warrant it being on this list. To this day, I think this is the best movie for both Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron. Terminator 2 is awesome as well but I've always liked this one the most because of its raw, low budget, to the point feel. It just feels like there's no BS with this movie and it's not pretentious either. All the actors are great: Arnold, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Lance Henriksen, they all turn in great performances. The action sequences are very intense and well shot, Stan Winston's Terminator and makeup effects are top notch, and Brad Fiedel's music is classic. Cameron may have go on to make the biggest movies of all time and while I enjoy those as well, this will always be his greatest accomplishment in my eyes.

28. The Thing from Another World (1951). One of my favorite 50's science fiction movies, this is the movie that basically started the obsession with alien invasion films around that time and it remains one of the best. There's some controversy about whether the credited director Christian Nyby directed this film or whether producer Howard Hawks did. It doesn't really matter, though. This is an enjoyable, suspenseful movie that also a great sense of humor about it. All the actors turn in great performances, including Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer (who plays my favorite character, the wise-cracking reporter Scotty), James Young, Robert Nichols, and Dewey Martin. James Arness may not have much to do as the thing itself but he's not the focus of the film. The fear and tension that the thing's presence creates is where the film gets its juice, making this another great example of less is more. Throw in some realistic, snappy dialogue and an eerie score and you've got a real classic.

27. Son of Frankenstein (1939). Some may be disappointed by this movie when they realize that in his final performance as the Frankenstein monster, Boris Karloff really doesn't have much to do and is a supporting character. But that doesn't make this movie any less enjoyable. Basil Rathbone as the title character, Wolf von Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi as the broke-necked Ygor, and Lionel Atwill as the one-armed Inspector Krogh are the reasons to watch this film. They're all awesome. The sets in this movie are far more lavish than any Universal Frankenstein film before or after, the black and white photography is beautiful, the music is good, and this movie takes its time in developing its story, ending up as one of the longest classic Universal horror films. It's definitely a highlight of Universal's classic horror run.

26. The Omen (1976). For me, this film, not The Exorcist, is the quintessential horror film involving Satan. I just love everything about this movie and always have ever since I first saw it years ago. It's absolutely creepy and dark, with great acting from Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, and Martin Benson. It's a great mystery thriller as well as a horror film. Up until the ending, you're not sure if little Damien is really evil or if he's a victim of circumstance. Richard Donner directs this film very well, with class and respect, Jerry Goldsmith's creepy as hell score adds ever more, and the climax is just amazing. To me, this will always be the most effective modern tale of Satan.

25. Paranormal Activity (2009). At this point, it looks the sequels to this are going to replace Saw as the yearly horror franchise but whether or not the sequels are effective, I don't think that you can deny that this film is still very effective. This movie is very, very creepy and effective, representing one of the best examples of the "found footage" sub-genre. The two main actors are believable and likable, the scares are very effective, there's a genuine sense of dread throughout, and the ending, whether you like it or not, will get you regardless. I know many hate this film and that's cool but I love it and think it's one of the best horror films of the 2000's.

24. The Blob (1958). Here's another favorite of mine because it's from my childhood. I know some may laugh at this movie but it actually takes itself seriously and plays it fairly straight, although the opening song wouldn't make you think so. There's just something to be admired about a low budget, independent movie like this that was made when independent films were basically non-existent and became a beloved classic all its own. Steve McQueen is very likable as the lead, as well as Earl Rowe, Olin Howlin, Stephen Chase, John Benson, and this was one of the first movies where teenagers are the lead characters and the actual heroes, setting the standard for the slasher movies. The blob itself, as crude as the special effects are, is actually an effective presence and believable for the most part. You may disagree about its classic status but I will always really like this movie.

23. The Fog (1980). One of my favorite John Carpenter films, this is a testament to his ability to create a mood. The pace of this movie is slow but effective, just how a good ghost story should be. The movie has a great ensemble cast with Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis, and John Houseman. The opening with Houseman telling a group of kids the story about the tragedy that happened in the sea near the town sets the mood perfectly. Carpenter's music score is eerie and effective, the fog effects are very well done for the time and budget, and the ghosts, what little you see of them, do their jobs well. This tends to be overlooked in Carpenter's filmography but I think it deserves a lot more attention because it's a great classic-type ghost story.

22. Insidious (2011). The most recent film on my list, I had to put this on here because it freaked me out big time when I first watched it. I hope James Wan gets the opportunity to make more movies because he's the next master of horror to me. This film's atmosphere is so tense and creepy that it's remarkable. All the actors did good. Lin Shaye kicked ass and I also enjoyed Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Ty Simpkins. The designs of the ghosts and their world was really eerie, giving an Argento, Suspiria-like feel to the film. The music with its screechy violins just made it even freakier. The ending is a bit typical and probably will make you roll your eyes but other than that, I can't recommend this movie enough. It will scare the crap out of you.

21. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The film that gave birth to horror icon Freddy Krueger, this landmark remains one of Wes Craven's best films by far. Robert Englund's first performance as Freddy is not as jokey as it would later become and he's quite scary here, always in the shadows so you never quite get a look at him. Heather Langenkamp is a likable heroine who becomes determined to destroy Freddy no matter what and John Saxon is also good as her disbelieving, police lieutenant father. Charles Bernstein's score is classic, the effects are crude but effective, and the dream sequences are fairly straightforward and simple here but I think that works to the film's advantage. The ending kind of sucks but other than that, I can't find much wrong with this film. It's not my favorite in the series, however. We'll get to that shortly.

20. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). One of the best, most classic sequels ever. This has to be one of director James Whale's crowning achievements in the genre of horror. Everything about this movie just works. The acting here is top notch. Boris Karloff is even more sympathetic here than he was in the original, Ernest Thesiger steals the movie as the mad Dr. Pretorious, Colin Clive is still good as the now reformed Henry Frankenstein, and Valerie Hobson is likable as Frankenstein's fiance Elizabeth. Elsa Lanchester is memorable in both of her brief dual roles, in the opening as Mary Shelley and the bride herself at the end. The bride, of course, is one of the few iconic female monsters. There's a real sense of class and elegance to this film but that doesn't overshadow the religious and homosexual overtones that you can find if you look very carefully. Franz Waxman's score is really good, ranging from eerie violin themes to exotic music for the bride herself. Very good, well-directed sequel, one of Universal's best classic horror films.

19. Re-Animator (1985). This movie is a rarity because it became a favorite of mine the first time I watched it. This is a pretty sick, disgusting film but it's also ghoulishly funny (whether they intended it to be or not). Jeffrey Combs is just great as mad scientist Herbert West who's determined to prove his reanimation serum is successful no matter what he has to do or who he has to hurt. The other great performance in the film is David Gale as the evil Dr. Hill who plans to steal West's serum even after he becomes a reanimated corpse himself. The gore effects in this film are pretty nasty but they're fun nonetheless. The most disgusting part of the film involves Hill's reanimated head actually giving head (I can't believe I just wrote that). Top it off with a nicely quirky music score and you've got one of the best splatter flicks from the 80's.

18. Child's Play (1988). If you've read my review, you know how much I love this movie so I won't spend too much time on it. Bottom-line, the ridiculous sequels aside, this is a straight, dark horror film that's worthy of a lot of praise. Tom Holland directs this movie very well and elevates the ludicrous concept to legitimacy. Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, and little Alex Vincent are all great and Brad Dourif is the man as Charles Lee Ray and the voice of Chucky. The animatronic effects by Kevin Yagher are still astounding to this day. Joe Renzetti composes a very creepy, dark score that drives the movie and, as I said before, it has an excellent pace, moving very swiftly but not sacrificing anything for it. If you've passed the film up because you think it's silly, I'd say give it another shot. It's much better than you think.

17. Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994). Here's my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street movie and also my favorite Wes Craven film. I know many people find this movie to be very pretentious but I've always thought that it was brilliant. While I do like Scream, I think this movie did the self-aware about the genre concept better. I don't know why everyone says Heather Langenkamp sucks in this movie because I thought she was great. John Saxon and Miko Hughes as her son are also good and Robert Englund is still on form as both himself and the new more demonic Freddy Krueger. I love the set-pieces (the highway scene is one that always gets me excited), the music is phenomenal, and I enjoy Freddy's new design. I will admit that it does get kind of silly at the end (the part with the tongue is ridiculous) but other than that, I'm sorry but I love this movie.

16. The Descent (2005). The best horror film of the 2000's to me. It's a shame Neil Marshall messed up a promising career with the disastrous Doomsday because this movie shows that he does have talent. This is one of the creepiest, most claustrophobic movies I have ever seen. From the moment they enter the caves, you just know that they're doomed. The design of the cave is very realistic and is well lit, with the movie being actually pitch black most of the time. You almost don't need the flesh-eating creatures but when they do show up, it adds to the sense of dread. The creatures are creepy and well lit. There was a point late in the film where I almost didn't want to look at the screen and when a movie does that to me, it's accomplished something. The music score adds even more of a downbeat and depressing feel to it. In fact, the movie is emotionally exhausting, especially if you watch it with the original UK ending. A stupid sequel may have hurt it a little bit but I still recommend this movie if you want something really creepy to watch one dark night.

15. Hellraiser (1987). I was blown away the first time I watched this movie. It's sick, twisted, taboo, and I love it for that. Clive Barker should direct more because he really has talent. This is a movie where everything comes together and works well. The plot itself is original and unique, which is a testament to Barker's brilliant mind. The makeup effects by Bob Keen are some of the most disturbing ever put to film and they still hold up to this day. The resurrection of Frank leaves me speechless each time and the way the character looks with no skin is just unreal. Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, and Ashley Laurence are all very good in their respective roles. Christopher Young's music is just amazing, whether it be the creepy main theme, the waltz-like themes during the sexual and resurrection scenes, or the out and out scary music for the horror scenes. Pinhead and the Cenobites are only in the film for seven minutes at most but that's okay because they're not the main focus. They still look great. This is just an undisputed classic of both 80's horror and of the genre in general. Highly recommended.

14. Fright Night (1985). It's a shame that this movie is so underrated and doesn't have a decent DVD edition because it deserves it. This is Tom Holland's love letter to the genre and you can just see his affection for it in every scene. As James Rolfe said, it honors the traditional vampire movies of old and yet does something new at the same time. Chris Sarandon is great as Jerry Dandridge, the mysterious, sexy neighbor who turns out to be a vampire. William Ragsdale is also good as the teenager who discovers his neighbor's secret and so is Stephen Geoffreys who becomes an unwitting pawn of the vampire. The best actor though is Roddy McDowall as the disbelieving, kind of jerky horror host who eventually redeems himself and becomes a loveable character by the end. The movie is pretty campy at times but it never mocks the genre. Add in some great makeup effects, nice music by Brad Fiedel (does this movie have the best make-out music or what?), and an exciting finale and you've got one very fun movie. 

13 and 12. The Fly (1958) and The Fly (1986). These are both two different adaptations of the same story but are both equally good in their own ways and I just couldn't put one above the other. The original is a movie that's years ahead of its time, classy and well-made. David Hedison, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall, and Patricia Owens are all great and give it an air of reality and elegance. The effects may seem dated but they do their job well I think. The music by Paul Sawtell is also a highlight: menacing and eerie. David Cronenberg's remake is his best film in my opinion. I know it's typical but it was my introduction to him and I think it's the purest example of his exploration of body horror. Everything about it works. Jeff Goldblum is excellent as Seth Brundle and the makeup effects by Chris Walas to show his mutation are revolting and make you feel sympathy for him. Geena Davis is also great as his love interest and John Getz starts out as an asshole but becomes quite decent by the end of the film. It's a great, tragic love story as well as a horror film. Howard Shore's score (which starts out as wondrous but becomes menacing by the end) is the topper on a truly great film and one of the best remakes ever.

11. Dracula (1931). Even though I think Christopher Lee is the best Dracula, this is the one I knew best when I was younger so I had to put it here. It is absolute classic. Bela Lugosi, of course, is legendary as Dracula and is who everyone thinks of when they hear the name. Dwight Frye is equally memorable as the insane insect-eating Renfield and Edward Van Sloan brings sophistication to the role of Prof. Van Helsing. The lack of music and the almost constant silence gives the film an eerie, dream-like quality. The sets are well designed, especially in the opening in Transylvania. Some may argue that the film loses steam when it gets to London and while I won't deny that it kind of does, I still enjoy it. Tod Browning may not have been very adept at making sound films at the time but I think he did an admirable and, along with James Whale, created the horror film.

10. The Invisible Man (1933). Beginning the top ten is another Universal classic and one of the funniest to boot. This is another one from James Whale and here he fills it with his trademark witty humor and dark comedy. Claude Rains is great as the title character, with his deep, powerful voice and insane laugh. Other great performances come from Una O'Connor as a screaming barmaid, E.E. Clive as a pompous police officer, and Gloria Stuart as the Invisible Man's love interest. To this day, the special effects are amazing, even more so when you consider that this is a film from the early 30's. This is another early talky that benefits from little music in my opinion. And as I said, there's a lot of humor throughout, the funniest scene to me being when the Invisible Man trots down in a street in a pair of pants singing, "Here we go gathering nuts in May." That's awesome and sums up why this movie is classic.

9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). One of the grittiest, most realistic horror films of the 1970's, I'll never forget the first time I saw this movie. I was amazed at how truly terrifying it is. It feels like the movie was directed by a madman. The grimy look to it is really interesting and, as many have noted, gives it a disturbing feeling of authenticity. All the actors do good. While Marilyn Burns and Paul Partain play memorable characters, the most iconic are the cannibalistic family: Ed Neal as the hitchhiker, Jim Siedow as the old cook who's the head of it, and, of course, Gunnar Hansen as the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (I just remember how freaked out I was by him when I first saw the trailer for this movie). The film's tension just builds and builds, there are many memorable scenes such as the dinner sequence and the chase between Leatherface and Sally, and the creepy, slaughterhouse sounds that act as music. Whether or not the film is actually based on a true story is irrelevant, it's still one of the creepiest movies ever. It's shame Tobe Hooper didn't live up to the promise of this movie.

8. The Shining (1980). I know this is a typical candidate for everyone's top ten favorite horror films but this movie really is that incredible. Stanley Kubrick took the bare bones of the Stephen King book and did his own thing, creating one of the eeriest, creepiest, most well made horror films ever. I always get irritated when King himself and fans of his bash on this film because it's not 100% like the book. King fan or not, if you can't see how brilliant this movie is, I honestly don't know what to say to you. Jack Nicholson gives one of his greatest performances here and he's a hoot to watch as he loses his mind. Danny Lloyd is also a good child actor and I always like Scatman Crothers in anything. The vastness of the Overlook Hotel gives a feeling of loneliness and isolation, punctuated by the snowstorm raging outside. There's also all the creepy images strewn throughout, the eerie music score, and even at its running time of two and a half hours, it holds your attention. One of Kubrick's best, if not his very best.

7 and 6. Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981). I saw both of these for the first time back to back on Halloween when I was twelve and that's why we have another tie. The original by John Carpenter is a classic, of course. What more can I say about it that hasn't already been said? Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis are great as Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode, Michael Myers is a terrifying villain, Carpenter composes his most well known and classic score, there's great use of the steadicam, the film looks beautiful with the blue lighting effect throughout, and the ending is a great cliffhanger. Bottom line, see it if you already haven't. Halloween II always gets the short end as a lesser sequel but I think it's on par with the original. It may be bloodier, but it keeps the same feel and tone, making you swear that Carpenter himself directed it. I think Michael is even scarier here, the hospital setting is used to great advantage, there's plenty of memorable kills, I prefer the synthesizer sound of the score to the original, and Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis are still in top form. I really wish it would get as much love as the original because I think it's every bit as classic.

5 and 4. Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). Yet another tie, this time between two of the greatest films from the master of suspense. I guess since I watch Psycho more often I like it more but I saw The Birds first so... I can't decide. Psycho is a classic and every thriller made today owes something to it. It's one of those few films that is perfect. Anthony Perkins is legendary as Norman Bates and so is Janet Leigh as the fatally unlucky Marion Crane. Vera Miles and John Gavin are also great as Marion's sister and lover. The music by Bernard Herrmann is also legendary, as well as the shower scene and the twist ending. Bottom line, it's great. The Birds takes a concept that would be stupid if done by a lesser director and makes it truly terrifying. Why the birds have apparently snapped and if this is happening anywhere else is never explained, giving it a feeling of doom. Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor are two great leads and you have good supporting characters like Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, and Ethel Griffies. The bird attacks are very intense, especially the one at the school, and this is yet another film that's aided by a lack of music. It's a shame that this was one of Hitchcock's last great movies but I still think it's one of his best.

3. The Wolf Man (1941). One of the first classic horror films I ever saw and is THE werewolf movie in my opinion. It's just a timeless classic. Lon Chaney Jr. gives a sympathetic performance as Larry Talbot and is intimidating as the Wolf Man, Claude Rains is a stern but loving father figure, Evelyn Ankers makes a good love interest, Bela Lugosi is a welcome addition in his brief role as the werewolf who curses Larry, Maria Ouspenskaya is classic as Maleva the gypsy, and I also enjoy Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, and Patric Knowles. The makeup design of the Wolf Man is iconic, the film is beautifully shot and has a fairy tale feel with the fog-shrouded forests, and the music is unmistakable. I know I'm repeating a lot but there's not much you can say about a classic that hasn't already been said.

2. Frankenstein (1931). I swear I really love these films and am not just putting them on here because that's expected of me. This, along with Tod Browning's Dracula, marks the true birth of the horror film for me. I like some of the silent films that came before but this is where it really started and became established as a beloved genre. This has to be one of the most well known films ever made. Even if you haven't seen it, you're probably familiar with its aspects due to all the spoofs, parodies, and tributes that have come over the years. It's all part of American lore. Colin Clive is the perfect Dr. Frankenstein and Boris Karloff will forever be remembered in the image of the monster with that iconic makeup by Jack Pierce. The laboratory sets, the dank dungeons, the torch-wielding villagers, the creation of the monster, the scene with the little girl Maria, it's all legendary stuff. It may not be the truest adaptation of Mary Shelley's original novel but that doesn't matter because this has to be the most well known horror film ever. If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself.

1. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). My absolute favorite horror film of all time is John Carpenter's masterpiece of isolation and paranoia. This is the horror film that seems to have it all: great performances, an amazing amount of tension and suspense, absolutely amazing special effects and gore, an atmospheric music score, and the most un-Hollywood ending imaginable. It breaks all the rules, combines everything I love about the horror genre, and I just embrace it for that. It may have sick gore and makeup effects but that's the icing on the cake to the paranoia you see grip the research station as the men turn on each other, fearful of who could be the thing and who isn't. The scene MacReady and Dr. Copper investigate the destroyed Norwegian camp is one of the single creepiest scenes I have ever seen. Every actor in this movie is great. I don't see a bad performance in the entire group. I really don't even consider it a remake because it's more of a faithful adaptation of the short story instead of a remake of the 50's film. One day I will do a full review of this movie because I could go on and on about it but I'll end it here. It's my favorite horror film ever, is one of the elite few movies that I consider perfect, and I will forever be grateful to Mr. Carpenter for making it.

Well, there's the list. Hope you enjoyed it because it was a lot of work to pull off. I hope you get a chance to see some of these movies if you haven't already. Remember, this is just my personal opinion and have a happy Halloween. I'll see you in November.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Found Footage Horrors: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

If The Exorcist is the iconic horror film of the 70's, then the The Blair Witch Project is the one for the 90's. Along with Scream, it was the biggest horror hit in the mainstream and was the most successful independent film ever made for a while. If you were around in 1999, it was hard for you not to hear about this film because everyone was talking about it. The first time I ever had any knowledge of it was when I saw an advertisement for the fake Sci-Fi Channel documentary Curse of the Blair Witch. I had no idea that it was a gimmick to advertize a film that was purporting itself to be real. Like everyone else, I did assume that it was a true story and that what they were showing in theaters was real footage. I remember kids at my school and friends who had seen it talking about it. Believe me, if people are talking about it where I live, then it's very popular. There was even a book about the "real story" that I saw at a video store and a copy of it somehow ended up at my high school library. I'm sure there was also a PC game that I saw at Wal-Mart. Of course, it wasn't just us. It had taken the whole country by storm by the end of that summer. It was hailed pretty highly by critics and was claimed to be as frightening as The Exorcist or The Silence of the Lambs. There was even a parody of it on Cartoon Network that fall called The Scooby-Doo Project! Long story short, it was a phenomenon and an enormous hit worldwide.

Then, the backlash happened. At a certain point, I had started hearing rumors that the story wasn't true and people were now saying stuff like, "What a rip-off!" or "It's stupid!" Granted, I hadn't seen the movie at this point but I can remember how angry people were at it, feeling like they had been tricked. Its popularity faded and everyone stopped talking about it. For years, I had written it off and while I hadn't forgotten about it (it's not the sort of thing you forget), it didn't cross my mind hardly at all. In October of 2007, I was in Wal-Mart looking for horror movies I'd never seen before (something I do every year) and I saw the DVD in its annual horror rack in the electronics section. I just figured, "What the heck?" and bought it, fairly cheaply I might add. I wasn't sure what to expect when I finally watched it but when I did, I was amazed by it. I thought it was a well made, believable, generally creepy little film. At the time, the "found footage" sub-genre was not very popular and except for The Blair Witch Project, the only other well known examples were Cannibal Holocaust and The Last Broadcast (the latter of which I've never seen but I hear it's not very good). In fact, it's amazing that no other types of movies like this came out immediately after The Blair Witch Project and that the success of Cloverfield is what eventually made the sub-genre uber-popular. But that's beside the point. The point is that The Blair Witch Project was a unique concept for its time, became a huge success deservedly so because it is generally a good movie, and I don't think it deserves all the hatred that it still gets.

Everyone knows the story: in 1994, three student filmmakers traveled to the small town of Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary on a local legend called the Blair Witch. They disappeared and they've never been seen or heard from since. However, the following year, their camera equipment was found and what we're seeing is the footage leading up to their disappearances. It starts banal enough with them meeting, traveling to the town, interviewing the townspeople, and so on. When they travel into the woods near the town is when things turn sinister. They become lost, fight amongst themselves, and are terrified by bizarre occurrences that happen to them including strange sounds in the woods, creepy witch-like stick figures that they find, and other frightening phenomena. Unable to find their way out of the woods, the increasingly confused and frightened students must hunker down each night and pray that they last until morning.

I'm just going to come out and say that I love these "found footage" types of horror films (if it wasn't already obvious since I'm devoting an entire section of this blog to them). I think if done well, they can be very effective in generating real suspense and scares with very little means. I know many people hate the shaky camerawork that's common in these films but I think it's authentic: if you were running from something in the woods that's after you or from running zombies (REC) or an enormous monster destroying the city around you (Cloverfield) and you were filming everything, the camerawork wouldn't be all that smooth either. One argument is that in some of these situations, the idea of somebody having a camera with them the entire time is stupid. Granted, in some of these types of movies they should really just drop the camera but in situations where they're not sure whether or not they're going to live and want to document it so people will know what happened or if they're actively trying to film something strange going on (as in Paranormal Activity) I buy it. I don't know how to explain it, I just do.

The two men who came up with the idea and directed the film were Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Unfortunately, they so far haven't done anything as incredible as this film (I guess this movie was so unique and groundbreaking that everything else just paled in comparison). They came up with the idea in 1994 (hence why the footage is purported to take place in that year) but didn't get enough funding to film it until 1998. There wasn't any real script, the actors were talented improvers and most of the dialogue was improvised, they were given instructions as to where to go and a basic outline of what to do when they got there, the filmmakers actually scared them during the night, and so on, eventually piecing together the movie from all the footage. They even went as far as to create a fake mythology for the Blair Witch by piecing together vague aspects of other bits of folklore. It was a unique way of making a movie and the finished product comes off as very realistic. I guess the directors are kind of like Tobe Hooper in that nothing else they've done comes close to their first real film but they honestly don't have to make anything else because of how enormous it was.

A big part of why it looks so realistic (and, as a result, why many people believed the claims that it actually was) is due to the actors. All three of the main characters look and act like real people. They're very excited to be making a documentary at first but as they become ever more lost and scared by what's happening around them, you can see them just gradually break down mentally. Some people complain about the amount of foul language in the film but if that was happening to you, you'd probably be swearing like crazy too unless you're a freaking saint. You can also see how run ragged and tired they are by the end of the film, knowing that they're more than likely not going to live through this experience. It really works.

Heather Donahue is the director of the documentary and she's very passionate about making the best film that she can. She is quite overconfident and naive, insisting that they're not lost when they clearly are and that she knows where they're going and what's going on. But as the situation becomes more and more dire, her confidence melts away and she becomes very hysterical, screaming and hyperventilating constantly. Still, she continues filming everything for the documentary, even when her friends are yelling at her to quit. Josh at one point even suggests that she likes the camera because it's a "filtered reality" and she can sort of pretend that what's happening isn't real. Donahue even said that she modeled the character after a real person that she worked with at one time. And she's the most recognizable image from the film other than the stick figure: her apology to the camera near the end of the movie is positively iconic and you can just see the fear in her face and eyes. It's too bad that she doesn't really want to talk about the film nowadays because of all the backlash she received because she did a great job and she should have done more acting.

Josh Leonard is the cameraman and the most laid back of three... or at least he starts out that way. While he's a nice enough guy, there's a hint of tension between him and Heather before they even get into the woods when it seems like he doesn't know how to use the camera that he's brought to film, not sure if it measures in meters or what and says he's only used it once before. When they initially get lost, he's the one who tries to be the voice of reason when Heather and Mike start arguing but as the situation becomes more frightening, he cracks big time. At one point when they've ended up back where they started even though they walked in one direction all day, he snaps, shoves the camera in Heather's face, and mocks and yells at her, causing her to break down crying. Some may find this extremely douchey of him to do that but honestly, I might have done the same at that point if we were lost in the woods to begin with since it was her fault. When he gains his senses back, he apologizes to her. He disappears near the end and we never see him again although we have clues to his fate in the last part of the movie.

Mike Williams, the sound guy, is my favorite of the three for several reasons. The main reason is that he reminds me of myself (he even kind of looks like me, although I'm a lot heavier). I hate to say it but I know from experience that I'd be acting the same way he was throughout most of the movie. When my senior high school class went on a required hike, the group I was in went the wrong way and it took us almost an hour to get back on the right path. I did have a breakdown because it looked like we were just going deeper and deeper into the woods, much like what happens here. I don't think I acted quite as jerky as Mike does but I did see a lot of myself in that character. (Moral of the story: do not go hiking with me unless we're both absolutely share where the trail leads.) Even though he goes along with the filming, he doesn't like the idea of hiking and when they get lost, he argues with Heather a lot, accusing her of not being able to admit that she doesn't know where they are. He also can't understand the map that they're using and eventually admits that he did something stupid and kicked the map into a creek. I'll say right now that that was really stupid of him and even though Heather was the one who got them lost to begin with, he further compounded the situation. That moment where Heather and Josh attack him when he admits what he did is really believable to me as three people who are out of their minds with fear and one of them just did something that could have doomed them. If you look back on it, when Heather and Josh initially can't find the map, he does make himself look like a big douche by innocently saying, "Neither of you have the map?" Again, very dumb of him to act like that but if I had done something that stupid, I know I would have acted innocent too so they wouldn't rip me apart (although, I doubt I would throw away a map in the first place!).

Another thing that's interesting about Mike is that he and Josh sort of switch roles. What I mean by that is that it seems as if Mike's the one who's going to completely crack and Josh is going to be the sensible one who becomes close with Heather by the end. However, Josh eventually goes half out of his mind and disappears, leaving Heather and Mike alone. You wouldn't think that those two would become close because their arguments become heated and even violent but Mike, possibly now realizing how stupid he was for throwing that map away, becomes the voice of reason, telling Heather to leave Josh alone when the guy's lost it at one point, talking Josh down when he's shoving the camera in Heather's face at another point, and saying that they must stick together. You can see that he and Heather are becoming closer, especially when the two of them are alone, and if they had made it out of the woods, maybe something would have developed between them. So, all in all, Mike may have done something very stupid but he does seem sorry for it afterward and he even sort of becomes the voice of reason.

The townspeople, even though none of them have a very big role, are interesting to me as well. I've heard that some of them were real townspeople and others were actors planted amongst them, unknown to the actual actors. (I'm pretty sure the ones that told them about the legend of the Blair Witch were the actors.) You've got the man who tells them the story of the guy who killed a bunch of kids in the 40's, a woman whose little boy doesn't like her telling the creepy stories about the witch, and, my favorites, two guys fishing at a creek, one who believes in the legend and another who doesn't. I get a chuckle out of how one thinks the other is full of it and they talk over each other and kind of argue about it as well. The most memorable person they interview is Mary Brown, this weird old lady who claims to have seen the Blair Witch as a child, saying that she was covered in black hair. The three of them mock her as they leave but don't act like you wouldn't either. I thought the townspeople were another reason why the film looks legit because they do come across as real people (and most of them weren't actors, so there you go).

One complaint I always hear from people who say the film isn't scary is that you don't see anything... and they're right about the latter. You don't see anything and that's why it's so scary. Myrick and Sanchez, besides not having the budget for it, knew that the movie would become laughable the minute a weird monster or witch or whatever appeared on-camera so they kept the threat hidden in the shadows. Say if you thought it was real when you first saw it. The minute a ghoul popped up you'd realize you're watching a movie, killing the effect. Sometimes, it's better to show little or nothing at all. The sounds you hear in the woods in the film do the job well. Obviously, if you don't find sounds in the woods scary, I can't convince you. If you don't find it scary, you don't find it scary and that's it. As a guy who's lived his entire life in a house in the woods, I can tell you that when you're by yourself at night and you hear something in the woods, it's creepy. Plus, I've been on camping trips so I realize how creepy the woods can be at night even without weird sounds. If you live in the city, you might not agree with me but that's beside the point. Those cracking noises they hear are really creepy because you have no idea what they are. Is someone stepping on briars out there? Is someone smashing sticks? What is it? Even creepier is when they hear little kids and a really weird voice as well. That's a really freaky scene, leading up to something shaking their tent and them panicking and running out into the woods. But the scariest to me is when Josh disappears and that night, they can hear him screaming out in the darkness. You're not sure what's happening but he sounds like he's in extreme pain, perhaps even being tortured. We get a little bit of proof as to what happened the next morning when Heather finds a bundle of sticks containing a piece of Josh's shirt soaked with blood, containing teeth, hair, and what looks like a tongue. While everything up to that moment was scary, it didn't feel exactly dangerous but that moment proved that whatever is stalking them means business. You don't know what it is but you know it has the capability to harm and even possibly kill them.

The mystery of what's happening is what gives the movie its creep factor. Still, it is fun to try to guess what's happening. The most obvious explanation is that it could be the Blair Witch herself. Some of the townspeople say that they believe that the witch is still haunting the woods. The creepy stick figures that they find certainly look like something used in witchcraft and the little cairns made up of rocks could possibly be related to it as well. That could also be tied to what's happening as well. Have you ever noticed that the night when they're filming footage at the little cemetery and one of them knocks over a cairn is the first night where they hear strange noises? Maybe those were grave-markers and the spirits of the deceased were disturbed when one of them knocked one over. If I recall, I think it was Josh who knocked the cairn over and that would make what happens later make a lot of sense. When they return after being chased out of their tent that night, Josh's stuff is thrown all around the site and there's a jelly-like substance on his stuff. That could have been him being marked for death, which leads to him disappearing and, likely, being killed. Not only was he marked for death but there was evidence that they all were since they find three cairns around their tent one morning... namely, two mornings after they knocked over the one cairn and heard rustling noises both nights. Josh says he heard something that sounded like cackling the night before they knocked over the cairn but he was might have just been hearing things... or maybe it was the witch?

There's a definite connection to the story of the man murdering children in the woods. They kids they heard could have been the spirits of those that were murdered. The house they find at the end has to have been the killer's house because the man who told them the story said he had a cabin in the woods. If so, it adds up to why the last image is Mike standing in the corner just before Heather drops her camera and the film ends. Maybe the ghost of the killer, Rustin Parr, lured Heather and Mike to the woods to go back to his old ways. When Mike drops his camera, that was probably Parr's spirit attacking him and forcing him to stand in the corner while he waited for Heather to come down so he could kill her. To go even further, when they hear Josh yelling for them, they question whether it's really him or something imitating his voice. Maybe Parr's ghost was either imitating Josh or forcing him to call for them and lure them to the house. What I'm getting is that maybe it's all the sordid details of the area's past: the Blair Witch, the child killer, the spirits at the makeshift cemetery. Maybe they've all come together for revenge on those who dare exploit them for a documentary. Or, as Mike suggests, it could be just a bunch of angry rednecks who don't like the history of their town being documented and decide to get rid of them by any means necessary, even if that means killing them. Isn't this more fun than outright knowing what happened? It lets you use your imagination and is a much more engaging movie in that aspect.

Now, I want to address the reason why many people still hate this movie to this day: that it wasn't real and they felt tricked. First off, that was Artisan Entertainment's idea, not Myrick and Sanchez, so they shouldn't be blamed for it. Second, the movie claims that this footage was shot in and, as a result, this story happened in 1994, right? There were trailers and TV spots that had fake news footage and interviews discussing the search for the three teenagers. If you think about it, you should wonder why you never heard about this story up until when the fake documentary and the movie itself was coming out. Finally, and this is the most important point, you were expecting to see a film that purported to be footage of the last few days of three people's lives and you're disappointed that it wasn't that? This doesn't make you look sane, people. Furthermore, why would a film distribution company put that footage in theaters if that's what it was? The families of the deceased would sue the mortal crap out of them!

Whether you liked it or not, you had to admit that the marketing for the movie was brilliant. Not only did they decide to purport it to be real but, as I said, there were trailers and TV spots with fake news coverage of the search for the characters (which I think was something that Myrick and Sanchez created to get investors interested in the film) but the best was The Curse of the Blair Witch, a fake documentary that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. It had interviews with the characters' purported relatives and people claiming to be historians on the history of Burkittsville. Of course, the Blair Witch legend is something the filmmakers made up from various real historical events and folklore so none of these people were really who they claimed to be (at least as far as the historians go; I don't know about the relatives). This was also the first movie whose release was due in large part to Internet buzz. The Internet was still a fairly new concept at the time and not everyone had but the marketers knew how to take full advantage of this new technology.

The lack of music in the film is something that helps its authenticity. It's always distracting when a purported found footage horror film has music on the soundtrack (like The Last Exorcism or Diary of the Dead, although the latter had explanation for the music but it was still bad). Oddly, there was a soundtrack CD released, although none of the songs are heard in the film. They were supposed to be from a mix-tape made by Josh that was found in the students' abandoned car. Something does play over the ending credits although I wouldn't call it music. It's just a bunch of industrial-like noises that are meant for atmosphere (it's called The Cellar and is on the aforementioned soundtrack album). Don't know what else to say about it but it does give an eerie feeling to the end of the movie.

To me, The Blair Witch Project is an undisputed horror classic from the new millennium. It's very believable, well acted, creepy as hell, and a great example of "less is more." It was the first mainstream example of the "found footage" sub-genre and was one of the first films to use the Internet to create a buzz about it. Yes, it may have "lied" about its authenticity but that shouldn't make people turn on it the way it did. When everyone thought it was real, they were praising it but turned around and said it was dumb when they found out it was fake. Again, that doesn't say good things about their mindsets. I guess it's also kind of hard to take the film seriously nowadays because it's been spoofed and parodied to death. A lousy sequel released the following year, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, didn't help matters either and killed plans for a third installment (though God knows what that would have been). But if you put the controversy, the parodies, the general consensus and everything else aside and just watch the movie, you will see that it's actually a very well made and, I'll just go ahead and say it, brilliant film.